Beyond Knossos – a cultural tax dodge

A case of tax evasion with a difference was discovered by the Financial Crimes Unit inspectors who audited the souvenir shop at the Archaeological Site of Knossos.

The tax inspectors went to the souvenir shop of the well-known archaeological site after receiving a complaint from a visitor who claimed he didn’t get a receipt for items he purchased. The officials posed as customers and ascertained that over the course of several hours the eight shop employees did not issue a single receipt for sales. Instead, they were recording sales in a ledger. When asked about that, they said that they had too much work and not enough time to ring up the sales.

After further questioning, the shop employees said the cash register was out of order. Upon the insistence of the tax officials, the cash register was presented and was working. However, further investigation revealed that the cash register was not registered with the tax authorities as required by law.

The issue becomes more complicated as the Knossos Archaeological Site and the souvenir shop belong to another government body, the Culture Ministry.

Under further questioning from the tax officials, the store staff said that they were acting on orders “from above,” without explaining what the orders were and who was the “above” who gave them the orders.

A further investigation revealed that Knossos is not the only archaeological site that does not pay VAT. Following the investigation at Knossos, the ministry of finance discovered that only  two , out of the several hundred archaeological sites that belong to the ministry of Culture, have VAT registered cash tills. Something that would not be possible without the knowledge and consent of the political leadership and the managers of the ministry of Culture.

According to a report by, ministry of Culture souvenir shops with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, do not keep invoices  for orders or a record of stock or sales – other than using the sales ledger. They just send their monthly takings,  to the ministry’s revenue department without any accompanying records or documentation.

So when Alternate Minister of Culture Nikos Xydakis said on Friday “We have zero tolerance for public sector workers who fail to defend the public interest”, he was probably trying to deflect the blame from the political leadership of the ministry and the senior managers who are responsible for monitoring the finances of the sites. The suggestion that shop assistants in hundreds of archaeological sites have, on their own initiative and without ‘orders from above’ purchased ledgers and started recording the sales manually, is bordering on the absurd. And, on past experience, there is a vast amount of tolerance for those who fail to safeguard the public interest. As long as they have good political connections. – edited and additional comments Y Xamonakis